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Meet the women who’ve been called 'angels with sewing machines'

“I don’t know if I would have a life if I wasn’t able to come here,” Sew for a Cause volunteer Pam Strong said.

VASSALBORO, Maine — In November of 2018, Rachel Kilbride sent up a trial balloon.

“I put it out there, if people were interested in sewing for charity to contact me,” she recalled. “I got more responses than I could imagine.”

Kilbride was a woman on a mission. She and her husband had bought an old, unused church building on Main Street in Vassalboro and poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into renovations — all with the idea of starting a sewing group that would make items to be donated to people and charities.

The line from the movie “Field of Dreams” seems appropriate: “If you build it, they will come.” Twice a month, two to three dozen women from central Maine, nearly all of them retired, come to what’s now known as St. Bridget Center and spend about six hours sewing quilts, blankets, pillowcases, and more.

What they make is given to just about anyone who needs it — veterans, newborns, homeless shelters, people who’ve lost everything in a fire. 

“I know we’ve donated over a thousand quilts,” Kilbride says. “That probably equates to over 50,000 volunteer hours.”

The dedication of the Sew for a Cause volunteers is indeed remarkable. These are women who believe in doing something for their community.

“To be able to sew things that are needed and are used locally, that’s what I like," Kathy Jurdak said. “That’s huge.”

Much is given by the women—many of them also spend hours at home sewing, but they say they get even more back. 

“I’m retired, and I don’t know if I would have a life if I wasn’t able to come here and be with these women,” Pam Strong said, another volunteer. “It has become part of who I am.”

Stacks of the fabric Sew for a Cause uses is donated. To help pay for other expenses including the cost of maintaining the building, Kilbride rents out St. Bridget Center for receptions, meetings, parties, and other events. 

But what really fuels Sew for a Cause are deep senses of caring and giving.

“Yeah, everyone’s smiling, everyone’s happy,” volunteer Monique Studholme said as she looked around the room at the women working amid the steady whir of sewing machines. “Just sharing a little bit of sunshine, I guess.”

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